Africa’s agricultural sector and food systems must rapidly and sustainably transform to deliver incomes, food security, nutrition, and wider economic opportunities if the continent is to achieve middle income status by 2050.
Experience and evidence shows that achieving food security targets and huge returns on agribusiness requires leaders that are visionary, accountable and that integrate efforts by diverse stakeholders including farmers, local and global private sector, civil society, investors, and development partners. The leadership must also be prepared for regular and rigorous progress assessments.
This call was made at the official announcement of Rwanda as this year’s host of the annual 2018 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF 2018) to be held later in the year, 3-7 September. The unveiling event was held at the state-of-the art Kigali Convention Centre where the September Forum will be convened.
Rwanda was selected to host the Forum due, in large part, to its leadership role in agriculture, both at home and across the continent. For example, in January 2018, at the AU Summit, the country was recognized by the African Union Commission as the top performing nation on the continent in the pursuit of agricultural goals and targets.
Organized under the leadership of H.E. President Paul Kagame and the theme of “Lead. Measure. Grow: Enabling new pathways to turn smallholders into sustainable agribusinesses”, the AGRF 2018 will build on the momentum in Africa’s agricultural transformation in recent years. It will also ensure that this is a marquee moment for both Rwanda and the continent to further advance inclusive agricultural transformation at the heart of the continent’s broader economic transformation agenda and Agenda 2063.
“Agriculture is the economic mainstay of the majority of households in Rwanda and makes a significant contribution to our country’s economy. The sector accounts for approximately 30 per cent of the GDP and employs about 69 per cent of the labor force. Our agriculture is run by smalllholder farmers who feed us, provide exports and grow our economy,” said Dr. Gérardine Mukeshimana, Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Rwanda.
“We are delighted to host this year’s AGRF to learn from compelling evidence across the continent for further action. Rwanda is ready to share lessons with other countries as well as gain new insights from its neigbours. We must continue to do even better at understanding new advances and deploying new solutions that will enable us all to tap into the full potential of our continent, increase value addition, create employment for our youth and nurture viable agribusinesses,” added Minister Mukeshimana.
Now in its 7th edition, the AGRF is considered the world’s most important and impactful forum for African agriculture. It pulls together stakeholders in the agricultural landscape to take practical actions and share lessons that will move African agriculture forward.
In just the past two years, the Forum has seen major continental commitments on agriculture. The AGRF 2016 in Kenya, for example, resulted in commitments of more than US $30 billion dollars to support the continent with investments to increase production, income, and employment for smallholder farmers and local African agriculture businesses over the next ten years. The 2017 edition in Cote d’Ivoire, on the other hand, saw close to US $6.5 billion worth of business deals in palm oil, pulses, potato, and rice by the private sector.
The 2018 Forum will look at how Africa can meet its development goals by tapping into the full potential of its smallholder farmers and the agribusiness sector. This is because for all the signs of progress in recent years, the continent still needs to move from food shortage to surplus, drive beneficial continental trade, and create millions of jobs and opportunities, particularly for women and youth.
The Forum will advance this agenda with several concrete outcomes in terms of knowledge sharing, the announcement of new political commitments to agriculture by several governments, new programs and investments, and progress in unlocking billions of dollars in private investment and finance from the private sector.
Speaking at the launch event in Kigali, Mr. Strive Masiyiwa, the Chairman and CEO of Econet Wireless, as well as Chair of the AGRF Partners’ Group, reinforced the comments by the minister, noting that, “Business and progress as usual is not enough for our aspirations as a continent; we must do more and do it more successfully. By scaling the right policies, programs, and investments, governments and partners in the African agricultural landscape can now transform the lives of millions of smallholder farmers and put a good number of countries on the path to a sustainable agricultural transformation, with significant impacts on farmers’ food security, nutrition and improving their bottom line and incomes.”
“Given our theme and focus on the importance of evidence-based leadership in driving progress, we could not ask for a better host for the AGRF 2018 than the Government of Rwanda. With inspirational leadership that measures and tracks the progress we all want to see, we can chart and advance the journey to Africa’s future and prosperity. We look forward to working together to ensure this is a transformative moment for Rwanda and the continent,” said Mr. Masiyiwa.
The 2018 Forum will attract close to 2,000 delegates from across the continent and the world. These will include high-level dignitaries, including current and former Heads of State and Government; Agriculture and Finance Ministers; eminent leaders of global development institutions; top industry captains from the national, regional, and global private sector; and lead representatives of farmer organizations and key non-governmental implementing partners.